Letter: A lingering taste for brewer's barm

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Worthen, in his article about the newly issued edition of Sons and Lovers ('Return of the Barm man'; Books, 5 September), says that 'not one reader in a thousand knows what a Barm man is'. He then shows that he is one of the 999 who do not know the use of barm in a household such as the Morels'. It was the yeast used for raising the bread dough, hence the 'barm cake' still much loved in the industrial North and Midlands, but possibly unheard-of in the South.

The other use of barm in home brewing is one that Mrs Morel, with her strong teetotal principles, would never have countenanced, but we have many accounts of her bread making.

Elizabeth David, in her book English Bread and Yeast Cookery, describes the development of yeast from the brewer's barm to the dried yeast we buy today.

As the child of a miner growing up in the Twenties I have always found the description of Mrs Morel's housekeeping, her baking and ironing in front of the fire, still true to my childhood, although written before the 1914 war.

Yours truly,


Lowton, Warrington

6 September